by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Charles is a Southerner, though he spent little time there after he was six months old. His mother preferred Paris and his grandmother, who eventually took over his raising, was globally minded. Charles is one of the few people I know who actually took a Grand Tour between High School and college. He was 16 at the time so his grandfather accompanied him.
A life-long Episcopalian, Charles earned his PhD at Harvard in Anthropology and History. From there he became a working archeologist in MezoAmerica.
Charles is easy going. He calls me to compare reflections on the Lesson for each Sunday, as I am also a practicing Episcopalian. But while I attend in Ashtabula, he generally is in Los Angeles, New Orleans, or elsewhere in his travels.
In early October last year he called me to discuss not the lesson but an announcement for an event of Reconciliation made by the Canon of Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans.
The event for Reconciliation was to focus on celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by apologizing for slavery. Since all of those involved are now long dead this seemed to me a bit like beating a dead horse. Then a tsunami of emails with links hit my INBOX. Charles is a very prolific researcher.
My family is actually Puritan and were solidly anti-slavery to the extent they served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The links gave me nightmares for days. From the first hand reports of merchants and travellers to Africa during the time of slavery I read stories of rampant cannibalism, human sacrifice, and torture, routinely accompanying the herding of people captured as a food source during the then endemic wars.
Some part of the available 'stock' were reserved for sale to slavers ending up in South America, the Caribbean and the United States. Nothing I read bore any resenblence to the scenes from Roots, which had informed me previously. According to the enormous number of independent reports this went on throughout the 19th Century.
Slaves, able to communicate with slavers, sometimes asked if they were going to be eaten, relieved when this possibility was negated.
When Charles and I talked again he said all anthropologists know this but somehow it has not made it into the general population.
Indeed. How would you explain this to the children? Reality can be scary.